Researchers Discover Dye That’s Safe and Effective for Treating Malaria
Chelsea Gohd on February 5, 2018, Creative Commons
New research has shown the dye methylene blue kills malaria parasites at an unparalleled rate and is safe for human use. In the recent study, which was conducted in Mali by scientists at Radboud University Medical Center, the University of California (UCSF), and the Malaria Research and Training Center (MRTC), malaria patients were treated with a combination of the blue dye and artemisinin-based combination therapy (a fairly standard treatment). Within two days, the patients were cured of malaria and were also no longer able to transmit malaria parasites if they were bitten by a mosquito again.
The research, which will be published in the journal The Lancet Infectious Diseases this week, marks a significant breakthrough in the treatment of malaria. Malaria parasites are growing increasingly resistant to existing drug treatments. When they are effective, current medications still do not prevent the spread of parasites — meaning that even if a patient’s symptoms are treated successfully, when they are bitten by another species of mosquito that spreads malaria, it could transmit the disease to someone else.
Malaria can still be transmitted from a person to a mosquito for at least a week using traditional treatment methods. Malarial parasites stay in an infected person’s blood for a long time, and while they’re there they split into gametocytes — male and female sex cells. When a new mosquito comes along and bites an infected person, they suck in those gametocytes in the person’s blood. In the new mosquito, they become fertilized, and when the mosquito bites someone else, the cycle continues, spreading the parasites.
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